United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5 and 8 focus on gender equality; decent work and economic growth respectively. The achievement of these goals requires a realization that gender parity is significant to the growth of global economies, and that meaningful inclusion of women in the labour market is a major contributor to reducing the global gender gap. Over the years, there has been an increase in the participation of women in the labour market. Despite the various measures put in place, this inclusion continues to be hampered by structural and cultural factors. However stereotypic roles and responsibilities as well as systematic structural inequalities within the labour market continue to serve as barriers to optimal involvement and participation in gainful employment. This article seeks to explore these gender related inequalities that threaten to exacerbate women’s economic vulnerability and dependence for specific localized groups of women in Kenya and Sweden. Using a framework based on structure, culture and agency, the article illuminates how these women navigate challenges presented by the nature of the job, multiplicity of roles and language as an empowering tool. Key insights from the study established that the women in the different contexts experienced similar threats and used their agency to maneuver these so as to participate as effectively as they could in the labour market. The coping mechanisms employed by these women present opportunities for policy makers and advisors in both contexts to explore in the quest to improve women’s participation in the workforce.